The arctic blast had been threatening all week. March had come in like the lion it purported to be, and although there was only a subtle breeze at the beginning, this was going to change.
My Monday morning held no surprises. I got myself ready for work, waved Dana off the premises, and set about completing the 'shadow box', I was creating as a present for my daughter. I had already bought the frame, cut the pieces of very thin wood with my very cheap saw (purchased from the Dollar Tree, it is absolutely ineffective for anything of any substance, but is perfect for the balsa wood that I had selected for the task,) and slotted the sawn pieces into place. The 'spare time' that I had on Monday morning, between getting ready and being collected by my daughter, was used for sewing together tiny bits of fabric to make miniature piles of towels and bed linen. The new wave of creation had begun!
The short ride to work was hindered by traffic, and what is a three minute journey without traffic, took fifteen minutes. Strangely enough, the filter arrow, that allows the traffic to make the left turn, stopping the oncoming vehicles, is not operational during the rush hour! However, we took the queues into consideration and were office-bound with plenty of time to spare!
Despite being Texas Independence Day, the courthouse was open and we were not treated to a day's respite. I face timed with my daughter-in-law as it was her birthday, and attempted to do the same with my sister, who also celebrates her birthday on 2nd March, but had to resort to text messages instead! It appears they both had a lovely day, which was the most important factor!
Monday flew by without any dramas and Tuesday morning was upon us before I had time to cut another piece of balsa wood and sew up another pile of miniature bed linen. The workload was rather heavy and by the end of the day, Dana was finding it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, I informed him that dinner was in the crock pot and we could stay a little later at the office if it would help him clear his desk! I then asked if he thought he would be completely finished by Wednesday evening, as I had just received an email telling me that I had won tickets to see a sneak preview of 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. However, I was not on the VIP guest list and we would probably have to wait in line until all the superior guests were seated. The response I received was not what I was expecting, and instead of the usual, "Ask me tomorrow", he expressed an interest, saying that it might be 'fun'! We left the office at a very late hour, and thankfully, my crock-pot had turned itself on to 'warm', to ensure that dinner was not a 'burnt offering'.
The outlook for Wednesday morning was bright, sunny, and rather warm, with a barmy seventy degrees on the horizon. (That is 21.111 recurring to those who use the other scale.) Although spring and sunshine were going to delight us in the morning, by mid-afternoon the temperature was going to dip, and we were expecting an all-time low overnight, breaking all records for the day! However, this is Austin, and we all knew that waiting five minutes could change everything! I left my house fairly early and headed in the direction of Joe. I had not seen Joe, nor his wonderful Third Roast Coffee roastery for some weeks, and was suffering from withdrawal symptoms, as well as a lack of ground coffee for our morning cup! Joe was well, and eager to grind me half a pound of his finest wares. After a fresh cup of coffee, and a catch up, I headed north to my manicurist, to have my nails painted with some bizarre and outrageous colour and design. The roads were very busy, and there had been a few incidents which were causing more hazards than usual. I arrived at my appointment a few minutes before my beautician and spent the time admiring pictures of my grandson, which had been transmitted, electronically, to my phone! The early morning raincoat had been discarded, as had my suit jacket, and I sat in a spring-like short sleeved blouse, whilst a navy blue lacquer was applied to my nails, embellished with a gold surround. Not as bizarre as I had originally imagined, but rather more sophisticated and subtle. I left the salon, and drove to the office, in the comfort of an air-conditioned car. The smell of coffee saturated my car, and I was feeling rather refreshed by the time I reached my desk. Dana had arrived at his desk earlier than usual, and was pleased to announce that he had successfully tackled all the leftovers from the previous day, and we should be able to leave at a reasonable time later that day, to take advantage of the tickets I had managed to procure for the sneak preview!
By midday the sun was shining without being shadowed by clouds, and the breeze that had been subtle at the beginning of the week, had dissipated into nothing. The temperature was extremely pleasant and to quote the album title of the legend rock artist, Phil Collins, we found we could step outside with 'No Jacket Required'! It was a beautiful spring day. By three o'clock, the clouds had made their way back into the sky, and the breeze had returned, bringing with it a slight drop in temperature. By four o'clock, the temperature had dipped by thirty degrees, and the breeze had turned into a sharp wind, with the clouds gaining enough weight to make them sweat. I was slightly concerned about our outing that evening, as the inclement meteorological conditions were contrary to our requirements!
We cleared our desks and headed out of the building before six. The email that I had received inviting me to the sneak preview had suggested that we arrive forty five minutes early, as there could be a queue, and I suggested to Dana that although the showing was for 7:30pm, we should perhaps aim to be at the theatre at 6:30pm, to ensure a reasonable place in the expected queue. My husband was of the opinion that due to the change in atmospheric conditions, the turnout would not be too large, as the people who would be most drawn to the film would be of like-age, and most would prefer to go home, and curl up with a hot bowl of soup, rather than spend a night in a cold cinema, with the thought of a drive home in the forthcoming wintry showers! This was certainly true of the restaurant where we decided to eat before venturing to the theatre.
Finding a parking space at the cinema was not easy. Still convinced that the average participant of the sneak preview would be around 60, Dana was quite sure that the quantity of vehicles belonged to those younger, but I reminded him that it was Wednesday and not a usual 'night out' for Austinites, which is reiterated by the fact that most restaurants have their 'special offers' on a Wednesday to attract customers. I was also a little more objective, as I considered the older variety occasionally have more stamina than the younger! Thankfully, there was not a queue forming outside, and we assumed that the organisers had liaised with the management and allowed the older generation to step inside, out of the freezing temperatures. We were correct, and spotted a few likely suspects in the foyer. A young lady, perhaps in her mid-twenties, (or perhaps she uses Palmolive....sorry that is an older generation joke!) was handing out orange wrist bands. I approached her and showed her a piece of paper that had the contents of my 'You totally won' email. Joyfully, she told me that I could go straight through to the cinema "over there, in the corner". In the 'corner', I was stopped by a slightly more mature gentleman, and given a blue wrist band, which although matched my sophisticated and subtle nails, did little to grant me VIP status! Dana, who was queuing for popcorn, accepted his wrist band and dutifully placed it on his wrist. I folded mine, and put it in my bag!
The centre section was manned by the guards, who if were not ex-military, were the 'one's that got away!' I was informed, as I stood 'to attention', (as one felt it was the correct way to behave in the circumstances,) that most of the centre section was reserved, and I could find a seat along the side, or in the front row. The front row is always the one behind my last choice, as my eyes do not focus so well, so far forward, and I made my around to the other side of the cinema and found two seats slightly north of middle, and waited for the popcorn yielding husband to appear. Quite certain that the VIP section would be opened up to the less than important remainder of the audience, many stood hovering, with a partner securing a wing seat, just in case of emergencies. The guards did their best to intimidate the would be loiterers but merely managed to get them cowering from one spot to another. Dana was surprised at the volume of participants, but stressed that he was rather comfortable in his chair, as was I. A cinema is not like a stadium, or a live theatre, and the side seats are sometimes an advantage, especially if there is someone taller sitting in front. As my view of the screen was perfect, I settled down, and chose not to move, should the premium seats be made available.
I did not have to make my husband 'eat his words', as he once again commented that this would not be a very good turnout, as he almost choked on them, as the VIPs arrived. Sprinting, pushing, shoving and climbing over each other to get to their preferred spot, the sprightly group entered the area, just as the gentleman who had handed me my wrist band stood at the front welcoming our most honoured guests, all of whom had come from the local retirement village! The octogenarians were the infants of the group, and not only had they braved the inclement weather conditions, they had all dressed up for the occasion. All the women looked as if they had their hair specially coiffured for the evening and the men were suited and booted! Dana, who had been to the Capitol for a meeting earlier in the day, and was wearing a smart pair of trousers with a matching blazer, accompanied by a shirt and tie, said he felt rather under dressed! The guards stood back, knowing that their authority would be of little consequence. It was now their turn to cower!
When the squabbling had stopped, and all were seated in what would have to be their preferred seat, and men had removed their hat, and women flattened their beehives, so that those who had not managed to break the sound barrier with their speed, could have a reasonable view from their less than perfect seats, the lights dimmed. As the movie started, it was hard for the rest of the viewers to turn their eyes away from the centre crowd, as we were both (in the words of another great singing legend, Mr. Neil Diamond) 'Amazed and Confused!' I have never underestimated the will of the octogenarian (witnessing my mother's prowess has warned me of my own future) and looked on in awe!
The film was excellent, and we laughed, and cried. At the end, we attempted to leave quickly, so as to avoid the rush, but the stampede was in full flow! As quickly as they had entered, the retirees made their way to the awaiting buses. Sprinting, pushing, shoving and climbing over each other to get to their preferred spot, the sprightly group exited the area. We headed for our car, the wind splashing the falling rain into our faces, and I was thankful that I had thought to take my raincoat into the theatre, as Dana was somewhat soaked to the skin by the time he got into the vehicle.
Thursday morning was very quiet. The weather prognosticators had been correct in their prediction, and the temperatures had, indeed, dropped below that which had ever been known, on this particular day in history! Schools were closed, and our courthouse was not going to be open until 1pm, with surrounding courthouses closing for the day. The roads were empty. It was cold. However, despite the coolness, the roads were not hazardous, and I found it rather interesting (coming from a climate where snow is an occupational hazard at times, and cold is not an uncommon phenomena) that government buildings, and offices, would close at the very threat of a freeze. I am sure that this is a safety issue, and can comprehend that, perhaps, my country folk would be of a similar mind-set should the temperatures soar in the summer to those that we are accustomed to in our more heated summers! It is not so easy to cope with what you are not use to!
By Friday we were back to normal conditions. Although cold in the morning, the day warmed up to a reasonable temperature and although coats were needed in the morning, they were discarded by mid afternoon. The sun shone and the people, once again, smiled. I contemplated the attitude of the retirement village people, and wondered if the cold weather hindered or attributed to their sprightliness!
I emailed the organisers of the event, and thanked them for the opportunity to take part in their sneak preview. I commended them for opening the invitation to the retirees, if indeed their doing, and was very sincere in my appreciation. I received a reply thanking me, as it appears they never receive a 'Thank you', only complaints of what they did wrong! I find it quite amazing (and confusing) that someone would have reason to find fault with something gratis! After all, we didn't have to pay for parking, and we did not have to stand outside in the rain. Perhaps a suggestion or two would be appropriate on a structured level, but to take the time to protest I feel is rather rude!
Up and down, up and down the temperature will go over the next few weeks. The clocks 'sprung' forward this morning, for those of us who live this side of the pond, denoting the start of spring. The following week will see the set-up of the South by Southwest extravaganza, and not being downtown, we shall miss the hustle and bustle of the crowds. I am feeling withdrawal symptoms already! However, I do have invitations for a couple of midday parties being held next weekend, and provided we can find suitable parking, my daughter and I shall head out to see what swag we can accumulate. With our guest wristbands already secured, I am certain we will not encounter the same VIPs that Dana and I viewed at the cinema. Sprinting, pushing, shoving and climbing over each other to get to a preferred spot is not normally the actions of the South by attendees, but anything is possible. I am sure we will survive and make it back home in one piece, so I can sit back on Sunday and contrive................ another story!